Gavin Grades The Movies


There have been some very good movies that were made over the years about Conspiracy Theories.  What they end up doing is taking the most believed or plausible explanation for the events under question and make a film committed to that.  Oliver Stone's masterpiece JFK is one of the best examples of it, but films like From Hell and All the President's Men are others.  Anonymous is a film like those in that it looks at the theory that William Shakespeare did not actually write anything, but was just a front for the real writer who had to stay in the shadows.  Unfortunately for Anonymous, this Conspiracy Theory is way too complex and doesn't hold water.

I'm not sure who this movie is made for.  You would probably be interested in seeing this if you really loved Shakespeare's work and/or British Royal history; but if you do, then you'll not enjoy all the blatant inaccuracies in order to establish its point.  But if you don't really enjoy Shakespeare and/or know very little about British Royal history, you'll probably really enjoy it; but let's be honest, you're not interested in seeing this in the first place.

Everything about the movie is top quality though.  This is by far director Roland Emmerich's best film.  He's the guy that is the Hollywood go-to for blowing up the world.  His legacy until now has been films like Independence Day, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.  Prior to this, his crowning achievement was The Patriot with Mel Gibson but the look and scope of Anonymous dethrones that in the attention to costumes, prop details and using Emmerich's experience with CGI to recreate the landscapes of 16th Century England.

The acting is tops as well.  Usual goofball Rhys Ifans (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 1, Notting Hill) is shockingly great in this darkly dramatic role as The Early of Oxford aka the true "William Shakespeare."  But he's joined by A-quality performances from Vanessa Redgrave (Cars 2, Mission: Impossible), David Thewlis (the Harry Potter series, The Big Lebowski) and Rafe Spall (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) who steals every scene he's in as William Shakespeare, who they portray as a showboating, blackmailing, drunken moron.  He's very funny to watch but this portrayal is one of vast inaccuracy, even within the context of the conspiracy.  And there is an example of the downfall of this film.

Any true fan of Shakespeare can sniff out the rewriting of historical events to make a puzzle piece fit where it doesn't and that sticks in your craw too much to fully enjoy the film.  The order of when plays were released is mixed up, Shakespeare's contemporaries are amazed at hearing things for the first time that they actually all did before he did, deaths of famous figures are jumbled about to make the story stick better, etc.  Not to mention the fact that the story itself is so hard to follow and keep all the characters straight that motives for massive plot points get lost at the fast pace of this 130 minute film.

In the end though the film stands as a wonderful send-up to Shakespeare's words...whoever wrote them.  Anonymous is beautifully framed in modern times by explaining to the audience that no matter  who actually wrote them (historians are 95% sure it actually was Shakespeare, by the way) that the words were so perfect and beautiful that they define what it means to be human.  And for that, I respect and liked this film.  The rest is history.
Anonymous  (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B
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The Ides of March

There are few actors out there that I will gladly sit and watch with a smile on my face regardless of how bad the movie is.  George Clooney is one of them.  Sure I'm a little gay for the guy, but how can you not be?  This new movie of his is not only starring him as a politician in the fight for the nomination but it was directed by him too.  The last time he did both it was for Michael Clayton and it got him an Oscar nomination for Directing and a win for Acting.  Sadly, this time around, it won't produce such accolades. Despite the fact that The Ides of March has one of the most impressive casts this year and it does nothing for the film.  It not only has Clooney but Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler).  With that kind of pedigree, you'd think there'd be thespiatic explosions all over the screen.  There isn't. That's not to say that the acting isn't well done though.  Everyone is natural and subtle but the script prevents them from displaying too much more than the cold Washington Insiders they are...that is except for Gosling.  Once again, Ryan Gosling does a great job at showing us a very layered character.  He's the cool and collected head of the political campaign that's put in two situations that lend itself to his undoing.  One involves a tug-of-war between Hoffman and Giamatti and the other is cleaning up after Clooney.  It's fun and unfortunate to watch Reynold's character become undone, but it's not enough to really get full entertainment out of it. The film moves at a deliberatly slow pace.  It's not heart-pounding or edge-of-your-seat.  It plays out more realistic than most political thrillers do.  I appreciate that.  But when it comes to how I want my movies, realism is appreciated but not throughly loved.  I would have enjoyed a few more twists and turns and a little more passion from the players would have pumped more life into the film.  But it's still very dark, sinister and paints an ugly portrait of American politics...and that I like. The Ides of March  (Rated R) Gavin Grade: B-
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In the opening sequence of this crime drama, Ryan Gosling is introduced as a getaway driver for two faceless thugs stealing money from some unknown destination.  The scene builds to what will be an inevitable chase scene between them and the cops.  Tension mounts as a creeping Cat & Mouse game plays out with them slowly trying to sneak down the streets of LA without being spotted.  Surely, this car chase scene is gonna be epic and kick this movie off in full throttle.  But no.  It never comes.  In fact, the sequence involves slow driving, methodical evasion moves and an  anticlimactic getaway.  Never once is any of it boring though.  And this sets the tone of Drive. Drive is a gritty crime movie that takes place in LA but we're not sure when due to a misleading soundtrack choice of heart-pounding synth pop and cliche costume choices.  These were deliberate choice by director Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed the brilliant Bronson in 2008, which introduced the world to Tom Hardy (Warrior, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises).  I'm sure he also had a call in the promotion of this film that uses hot pink '80s style font for all the advertising and credits.  Coupled with the heavy female soundtrack and Gosling's adorable manboy face, you'd expect this to be a film about crime that's made for women.  A warning to all lovers of The Notebook, this is not the Ryan you're expecting. Drive is one of the most violent movies I've ever seen.  Sure there are movies like Saving Private Ryan or Nightmare on Elm Street that are officially more violent, but Drive is filled with unexpected brutality.  This is NOT a film for the slight of heart.  Some of the scenes generated audible gasps from the audience and people turned away from the screen.  In some cases, people got up and left the theater.  Yes, some of this violence is gratuitous but never once does it not fit the tone of the film.  It's all done for a reason and in some cases even meant to be playful. The entire cast is brilliant.  It also features Carey Mulligan (An Education), Ron Pearlman (Hellboy), Bryan Cranston (AMC's Breaking Bad) and comedian Albert Brooks (Mother, Finding Nemo) as an Oscar-caliber villain.  He is a perfect baddie and nobody would EVER have guessed that.  It's that kind of risky choices that makes Drive and Refn's vision that deserves top notice from people. All that being said, this is not a movie for mass audiences.  It has a pace that is slow and deliberate.  The film takes itself more seriously than it deserves but that can be overlooked.  Gosling's character, who is only listed in the credits as "Driver," is mysterious and a man of few words.  He says very little and Refn allows moments of the film to go on in complete silence for agonizing amounts of time.  However, after a full viewing, I'm sure those pregnant pauses are far more important and justified on a second enjoyment. There are few movies that, after I see them, I look forward to seeing again as soon as possible; Drive is one of them though.  It's not a classic story of a criminal with a heart of gold.  It's a story of a criminal who tries to do the right thing after falling in love, but displays acts of violence that suggests an almost psychotic and homicidal maniac past.  Gosling does a stellar job showing that without ever saying a word.  But again, don't go into Drive with any pretense.  It's not Fast and the Furious filled with amazing car chase scenes!  It's not The Notebook filled with passionate love scenes.  It's brutal, weird and inspired!  It's one of those movies that makes you think you just saw something important...even if you're not 100% sure what you just saw. Drive  (Rated R) Gavin Grade: A
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